Full-time: Bristol Rovers 2 Aldershot 2
Eliot Richards came off the bench to rescue a point for Bristol Rovers as John Ward saw his first game in charge end all-square at relegation rivals Aldershot this afternoon.
Richards had been on only a matter of minutes when his deflected shot from the edge of the penalty area was enough for Rovers to claim a valuable point at the Recreation Ground.
Aldershot striker Craig Reid will always be grateful to Ward for rescuing him from the football scrapheap after signing him for Cheltenham when released by Coventry some five years ago – but showed little gratitude by scoring what looked like it might have been the winning goal in the 75th minute.
Earlier, David Clarkson had cancelled out Michael Hector's 33rd minute opener for Aldershot when converting from the penalty spot early in the second-half of a game that was a typical muck and bullets affair between two sides immersed in a relegation scrap.
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Rovers, though, are still rooted to the foot of League Two and are three points below the cut-off point following a surprise victory for Barnet at Gillingham.
A big job still remains on Ward's hands if he is make sure Rovers retain their Football League status – but at least the players showed fight in ending a run of three successive defeats.
Ward explained his first team selection simply by saying that he decided to try and implement a round pegs in round holes policy – something of which there had been little off during McGhee's time in charge.
He went for a safety first policy by deploying a 4-5-1 formation – but was boosted by the return of long-term absentee Cian Bolger, who replaced the injured Guy Branston alongside skipper Garry Kenneth.
Michael Smith had also recovered from illness to take over from Danny Woodards, who is suffering with a minor ankle problem, at right-back.
Fabian Broghammer started on the left of a five-man midfield, which also included Seanan Clucas, Tom Parkes and Joe Anyinsah, while David Clarkson started from a deeper midfield position behind lone front man Eaves.
A torrential downpour shortly before kick-off and persistent rain that followed has made for a scrappy encounter short on meaningful attempts at goal throughout a hard-fought opening period in which Dean Holdsworth's side started the brighter.
They missed a good opportunity to score a goal early on when Hector lashed the ball wildly over the bar from close-range after Peter Vincenti had nodded down an accurate set-piece delivery in the eighth minute.
The winger, though, made up for that misdemeanour in the 33rd minute when picking up the ball on the edge of the penalty area before executing a delicious curling shot out of the reach of Sam Walker's flailing arm and in to the far corner of the net.
Rovers, however, had looked solid enough up to that point as treacherous conditions and Ward's philosophy combined to equal a no-nonsense approach.
Lone front man Tom Eaves was asked to run the channels in anticipation of balls arrowed into his direction, whilst a three-man central midfield unit looked as if it had been asked to win the ball and move it forward and wide with haste.
To that end, Fabian Broghammer proved the most useful outlet by showing a quick pair of heels down the left-hand side – but Rovers still failed create a chance of note in what were admittedly difficult conditions during the opening period.
Ward was also forced to make an early change when Jim Paterson limped out of proceedings in the 18th minute to be replaced by Lee Brown to further scupper his pre-match game-plan.
Rovers, though, did manage to level soon after the restart when Broghammer continued to tease right-back Aaron Morris before forcing him to commit a costly foul inside the penalty area.
Clarkson slammed the resultant spot kick straight down the middle to restore parity with what was his seventh seventh goal of the season.
Aldershot could have reclaimed their slender advantage seconds later, however, when striker Danny Hylton capitalised on a Garry Kenneth mistake to bear down on goal one-on-one with Walker.
Hylton, however, hit the side-netting when he should have done much better to leave Holdsworth – a former Premier League striker – to look on with disdain.
Ward suffered a further injury concern when Clarkson was forced to hobble out of the action to be replaced for the final 20 minutes and looked to be even deeper in trouble when Reid converted from the spot after defender Sonny Bradley had been fouled in the penalty area by Kenneth.
That incident looked to have condemned Ward to a defeat in his first game in charge before Richards' late intervention four minutes from time.
Rovers (4-5-1): Walker; Smith, Kenneth, Bolger, Paterson (L Brown 18); Anyinsah, Clarkson (Norburn, 70) Clucas (Richards, 80), Parkes, Broghammer; Eaves. Subs: Harrison, Harding, Gough, Santos.
Aldershot (4-4-2): Young; A Morris, Brown, Bradley, Tonkin; Cadogan (Mekki, 70), Vincenti (Berqvist, 85) Rose, Hector; Hylton (Reid, 70) Lopez. Subs: Madjo, G Morris, Roberts, Webbe.